California Governor Gavin Newsom declares Indigenous Peoples Day in California. File photo

Governor declares Indigenous Peoples Day in California

For the fourth year in a row, and marking three decades since the city of Berkeley organized the first Indigenous Peoples Day celebration, California proclaims today as Indigenous Peoples Day. Today we honor and celebrate the perseverance, rich diversity and contributions of all Indigenous peoples – from the first peoples of this place to those from across the globe who now call California home.

California Governor Gavin Newsom.

In a time when many seek to exploit our differences, California understands that our diversity has long been our greatest strength. The first peoples of this place descend from one of the largest, most diverse populations of Native peoples in the nation. And, despite all odds, they have persisted in the face of successive waves of newcomers – sometimes hostile, seeking to extract, displace and destroy, and sometimes hopeful, seeking a better future for their children. Since that time, California has welcomed Indigenous peoples from all places, all of whom we now call fellow Californians.

Today we celebrate not only the survivance, but also the tenacity of Indigenous peoples to succeed despite deeply entrenched historical, institutional and cultural barriers. This year alone, we witnessed a Wailaki citizen of the Round Valley Indian Tribes become the first Native American woman in space, Indigenous Californians reclaim their right to manage coastal land under a first-in-the-nation program in partnership with the state, the removal of offensive place names throughout the state, the reintroduction of the California condor in Yurok lands and the restoration of lands and Native foods to Indigenous peoples throughout California.

As Indigenous peoples gather today at Alcatraz in commemoration of the Native American rights movement’s occupation of the island, we stand in solidarity and support of Native- and Indigenous-led movements toward balance, reciprocity and respect, understanding that these changes will require a reexamination and renewal of our collective values. We are living in times of massive change and existential threats – climate, capital and cultural shifts demand that we welcome each other with open hearts and minds, shedding the colonial thinking that allows us to too often dehumanize and demean each other in the pursuit of personal gain.

In that spirit, we again disclaim the celebration of the conquest of the lands we now call the Americas, instead calling on Californians to reflect on and celebrate the resiliency and tenacity of Indigenous peoples everywhere.